Why is it that a good, comforting, quality hug can feel like the best medicine in times of need? Anyone who has reached for comfort in the arms of a loved one or enjoyed a spontaneous embrace with their partner knows the rush of warmth from these moments, yet may have difficulty putting the sensation into words. Scientists have been able to quantify what goes on in our bodies during a meaningful embrace and the results bode especially well for women’s health.
A University of North Carolina team of researchers decided to study both oxytocin and cortisol levels, as well as blood pressure, in participants before and after hugging their partners. The pairs also spent time reflecting on happy times in their relationship and watching a romantic clip, yet the twenty second hug is thought to be the bigger contributor to the results. Both men and women had increased oxytocin, or the social bonding hormone, compared to pretest levels. Yet every one of the women in the study additionally showed a decrease in both cortisol, the stress hormone, and blood pressure levels. It seems that a loving embrace with their partners had an overwhelmingly consistent effect on women, as compared to men.
Dr. Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation, said, “the importance of oxytocin and its potentially cardioprotective effects may be greater for women [than men]. Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health.” As social creatures, physical touch and intimate contact is a crucial part of our lives. Which begs the questions: How much physical contact do you have with your partner? Is it enough?
The holiday season, for many people, is about connecting with loved ones. Yet, the extraneous details of the season may distract from this goal. Cramming too many activities into the month, becoming frazzled about budgets, traveling and all its stressors can all contribute to frustration and exhaustion—two things which do not make it easy to connect with our loved ones. Here are some tricks to keep consistent, loving contact with your partner during this rushed time of the year:
Schedule time for each other with the same priority levels as other holiday commitments. Whether it’s a planned date night, time together on the couch or time between the sheets, being purposeful about keeping your connection with your partner is of the utmost importance. Put it on the calendar if you must. Which brings us to…
Be intentional about your physical contact during your time together—even in fleeting moments. Hold hands at the grocery store. Set down your phones on movie night and cuddle for the sake of cuddling. Spend an extra 10 minutes in bed together at the beginning or the end of the day holding one another.
Try something new that requires each other’s touch. Partner yoga is one example of an activity that calls for intimate touch and trust. Learn how to give one another top quality massages or foot rubs to foster your physical connection. Not only will the surge of oxytocin be heart-healthy, but your bond will strengthen with the exploration of new ways to connect.
Source: Care2.com by Katie Medlock